On Monday I said I would start posting more, but then yesterday I didn't have any time to write anything. Sigh. After all, I am back from sabbatical and now have pastoral duties!
In Luke 9:44, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men."
Right after this in v. 45 Luke tells us explicitly that the disciples didn't get it. Then he narrates a number of episodes that show how completely clueless they were, especially regarding the implications of Jesus' self-sacrifice for their ministry in Jesus' Name.
In his excellent commentary on Luke Joel Green notes: “That they cannot comprehend this is rooted in their failure thus far to embrace fully the new view of the world that is the content of Jesus’ proclamation, a world in which conventional perspectives on honor and shame and the meaning of suffering in relation to God’s purpose are subverted. Because they have not adopted this view of the world, they cannot really understand the nature of their own discipleship—as becomes abundantly clear in vv. 46-50)."
What is this new view of the world? Well, it will be a worldview grounded not simply in God as Creator and Lawgiver. But grounded now in God the Son’s manifestation of the true glory of the divine character—which is not power and grasping and self-glorification, but self-giving and suffering so that others can be elevated and glorified. This new world view also manifests the true calling of man, the image of God. To live like God the Son is to serve others.
And this is exactly what the disciples cannot yet do at this point in the story. They argue about who is the greatest (46-48). The are envious of those who can do (49) what they have failed to do (40). They are ready to call down judgment on people before they are given the opportunity to repent (53-56).
Reading these episodes it is pretty obvious that the disciples haven’t seen the light yet. We who read these stories after the definitive Epiphany of Jesus' cross groan and wince when we see how foolishly the disciples respond. But we have the whole story in front of us. We know the significance of Jesus' cross.
It will click for the disciples after the resurrection. But can you imagine what it was like for the disciples themselves to read these accounts of their cluelessness? Remember, all of them are still alive when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written. So can you imagine the grace it took on their part to allow these stories to be written this way and to approve of them. The very fact that these stories are so disturbingly honest is incontrovertible evidence that the disciples did eventually let the words of Jesus sink into their ears.